Greater inactivity is associated with a higher risk of dying from cancer, according to a study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The study, published in Jama Oncology, found that the most sedentary individuals had an 82% higher risk of cancer death than the least sedentary individuals. Researchers also found that replacing 30 minutes of inactivity with exercise significantly reduces the risk of cancer death; however, not all exercise is created equal, the study authors noted

A moderate intensity activity, such as cycling, is associated with a 31% reduced risk of cancer death, whereas a light-intensity activity, such as walking, is only associated with an 8% reduced risk.

The study included 8,002 patients from the nationally representative REGARDS study, which involved more than 30,000 individuals over 45 years of age living in the United States between 2003 and 2007. The 8,002 patients did not have a cancer diagnosis at the beginning of the study.

According to the press release, instead of having patients self-report, they wore an accelerometer on their hip during waking hours for 7 straight days. Data were collected between 2009 and 2013. At the mean 5-year follow up, 268 patients had died of cancer.

"Conversations with my patients always begin with why they don't have time to exercise… I tell them to consider standing up for 5 minutes every hour at work or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It might not sound like a lot, but this study tells us even light activity has cancer survival benefits," associate professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention and lead author of the study Susan Gilchrist, MD, said in the press release.

The study had several limitations, such as a potentially healthier participant sample compared with the full REGARDS cohort. According to the press release, there was also a lack of site-specific cancer data, such as tumor and treatment.

Reference
“Study shows sedentary behavior independently predicts cancer mortality” (News Release); Houston, TX; June 18, 2020, EurekAlert; June 18, 2020